Tuxedo Styles for 2019: A Complete Guide

Navigating the wide variety of tuxedo styles available can feel overwhelming, leading otherwise stylish guys to revert to the same old looks.

A complete guide to tuxedo styles by The Black Tux.

Wedding tuxedo styles present an even bigger challenge, as we attempt to force a weirdly-specific color into a traditionally black and white outfit, often leading to one of the most infamous (and regrettable) wedding tux styles: the brightly-colored tie and vest combo.

This comprehensive guide will prevent you from wasting countless hours poring over Google Images for tux ideas. There’s a more thoughtful way to approach men’s formalwear that results in a better, more personal outfit. Whether you’re a modern groom, or just trying to chase down the latest trends, this guide will answer every question you never knew you had about the pinnacle of men’s clothing: the tuxedo.

Man wearing one of The Black Tux peak lapel tuxedo styles.

Table of Contents

Tuxedo Basics
Tuxedo Jacket Styles
Tuxedo Shirt Styles
Tuxedo Neckwear
Cummerbund or Vest (or Neither?)
Tuxedo Pants
Tuxedo Shoes
Tuxedo Accessories
Popular Tuxedo Styles
Bonus: Renting vs. Buying


Tuxedo Basics

What Makes a Tuxedo… a Tuxedo?

Tuxedo basics: What makes a tuxedo a tuxedo?

At first glance, suits and tuxedos might seem pretty similar. But before we establish what a tuxedo is, let’s talk about what a tux is not. A tuxedo is not just a black suit worn with a bow tie. While that description misses some of the finer details of the tux, it also assumes that all tuxedos are black and white (they’re not). And while bow ties are the traditional neckwear match for a tux, they’re not your only option.

The biggest difference between suits and tuxedos is the use of silk satin in the design of the tuxedo, most prominently on the lapels. Suits are almost always made with a consistent fabric on both the jacket and pants—no special lapels, no satin leg stripes. And most tuxedos have silk-covered jacket buttons while suits have normal buttons.

So, should you wear a tuxedo to your event? The tuxedo is designed to elevate your appearance above the day-to-day suit. If you’re wearing a tuxedo, you’re probably celebrating something special. Only you can decide whether a tuxedo is the garment you need. Look deep inside yourself, meditate, wander off into the desert on a spiritual quest for which formalwear best calls to your soul. Or, you know, just take a look at the event, its dress code (if there is one), and what other people you know are wearing—and follow accordingly.

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For example, if you’re a groom (congrats!) and your bride is wearing a princess gown in your wedding, you may look too casual standing next to her in a suit. Go for a tux. Conversely, if you’re having a sunset beach wedding and the bride’s in a flowy, less- traditional dress, you’ll probably look like a buttoned-up fool in a black tuxedo. Go for a suit. These are just things to consider.

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Tuxedo Jacket Styles

Three men wearing various tuxedo jacket styles.

When you’re choosing a tux jacket, the details make all the difference. Your tuxedo style is largely defined by the jacket, and while picking one might sound simple enough (um, black?), there’s a lot you need to pay attention to—like lapels, buttons, and even fabric—when putting together your look.

Tuxedo Lapel Styles

Notch lapel tuxedo.

NOTCH LAPELS
The standard in men’s suiting today, notch lapels are found on everything from sport coats to business suits—which also means they’re considered more casual than other lapel types. They have a “notch” where the jacket collar meets the lapel. Despite being a casual lapel type, notch lapels are versatile—you’ll find them on both suit and tuxedo jackets. Just avoid wearing them at the most formal black tie events.
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Shawl collar tuxedo.

SHAWL COLLARS
Shawls aren’t just for little old ladies. Shawl (collars, that is) are characterized by a modern, rounded shape, and are primarily seen on tuxedos and dinner jackets. While shawl lapels are pretty much only found on black tie-appropriate garments, some would argue that they are less formal than a peak lapel. You could also argue they have more panache. Use your judgment based on the event and your personal style.
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Peak lapel tuxedo.

PEAK LAPELS
Peak lapels are slightly wider than notch lapels, with edges that “peak” upward toward your face. Originally seen in highly formal, highly traditional garments like tailcoats, the peak lapel has since made its way into tuxedo and suit jackets alike. It’s generally viewed as more formal than the notch lapel, and, because it’s less common, more of a statement. But don’t shy away—because they point upward, peak lapels have the effect of making you look taller and slimmer. Win, win.
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Pro-tip: Looking for a way to elevate the notch? Try a notch lapel bound with grosgrain ribbon.

Double Breasted Jackets

Double-breasted tuxedo.
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Double-breasted jackets have overlapping front flaps and two sets of buttons. Traditionally associated with everything from ’30s gangsters to ’80s Wall Street brokers, today’s double-breasted suits are a slimmer cut (which makes them much more flattering), and perfect for the guy who wants a bold look. While viewed as more formal than its single-breasted brother, we say wear the DB wherever you want: office, burger joint, wedding—which is why we made a double-breasted tux.

Tuxedo Colors

Tuxedo colors and styles.

When you think of the iconic tux, you probably think in grayscale. And while we obviously respect tradition, the modern tuxedo isn’t always black and white.

Midnight blue tuxedos got their start as an acceptable alternative to black tuxes because their dark blue fabric appeared blacker than true black under the glow of early electric lighting. Later, tropical climates necessitated the white dinner jacket—a warm-weather take on the tux. These looks have turned into double-takes on the red carpet lately, and you can wear both midnight blue and white dinner jackets year-round.

Unique fabric colors or patterns can also up your game. Gingham, tartan, and bright fabrics make a bold, celebratory statement at less formal affairs, like holiday parties. The key to pulling off these tuxedos is knowing the dress code—you’d never wear one of these show-stoppers to a traditional black tie event.

Tuxedo Materials

Tuxedo materials.

For many reasons, wool is the most popular fabric for suits and tuxedos. It drapes beautifully and has a sleek finish that makes for a polished look. It’s also known to be insulating, breathable, and durable—basically making it the do-it-all renaissance man of the suiting world. It’s hard to go wrong with wool.

In chilly weather, try a velvet dinner jacket for a low-key move to set your look apart. Plush velvet adds rich texture to your look and keeps you feeling and looking warm in the autumn and winter, but it’d look (and feel) out of place in warmer months. Velvet has a heavier hand feel, but when you’re wearing a velvet jacket it wears just as light as a wool jacket. That’s good news for the dance floor.

Tuxedo Button Styles

Tuxedo button styles.

Generally, the fewer the buttons on the closure, the more formal the jacket. Think of ultra-formal tailcoats: the jacket doesn’t even close! Tailcoats usually have some buttons, but none of them are functional.

Single-button jackets are the most formal in modern menswear, and not coincidentally, most single-button jackets are tuxedos or dinner jackets. Two-button jackets are more versatile but a little more casual, too. They can be dressed up or dressed down, from a cocktail party to a black tie optional wedding. You can find modern tuxedos with two-button closures, but they’re most often used in suiting.

Three-button suit jackets are less common, and you rarely see three buttons on a tuxedo—they’re too casual. The outlier here is the double-breasted jacket. Despite having 4+ buttons, they’re generally considered more formal than a two-button jacket (and again, not all of the buttons are functional).

So how does your new-found “button smarts” help you get dressed? Now that you know the design intent behind button counts, forget it. Really.

Choose a jacket that appeals to you and compliments your body type. The only reason you might consider choosing a one-button over a two-button is if you’re attending a very formal event or wedding. Even then, it’s unlikely anyone’s going to publicly shame you for making a relatively small style choice.

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Tuxedo Shirt Styles

The tuxedo shirt: It’s the blank canvas that lets your tie shine. A carefully chosen tux shirt says a lot about your style, and should match the vibe of the event. It’s really the unsung hero of any formal look.

Imagine your tux shirt is Scottie Pippen and your expertly-tied bow tie is Michael Jordan. Sure, MJ is arguably the GOAT (greatest of all time), but while everybody’s looking at His Airness they miss Pippen killing it on defense and recording 21 career triple doubles according to Wikipedia! Twenty-one!

Your passion for choosing the right tux shirt should be just as intense as this author’s appreciation for 7-time NBA All-Star Scottie Pippen. Like every other part of your tuxedo, it’s important to be intentional about the shirt you wear.

Tuxedo Shirt Collars

Tuxedo shirt collars.

WING TIP COLLARS
The most formal collar option, the Wing Tip gets its name from the fold-out collar points that look like wings (and possibly because they have a tendency to make you look classically “fly”). It’s designed to be worn with a bow tie and tuxedo, so if you’re going for a laid-back, “don’t care” look, this one isn’t for you. And it’s really not for you if you’re wearing a suit or a necktie—never wear a Wing Tip collar with a suit or necktie.

SPREAD COLLARS
The most common type of collar today, and the most versatile. They work with suits and tuxedos alike, and both bow and neckties. Spread collars also come in a variety of points and angles—from the forward point collar with its narrow spread, to the cutaway collar’s wide spread (the “spread” refers to the distance between the collar points). Choose carefully—this is your chance to be the Goldilocks of collar spreads.

Shirt Bibs

Tuxedo shirt bibs.

Some dress shirts have a rectangular panel that runs up the front of the shirt. It’s called a “bib,” and it’s much more sophisticated than what a baby wears while eating mushy peas, but equally cute: it doubles your shirt’s chest fabric, ensuring that anything visible under your tuxedo jacket is bright white, not see-through.

There are two* types of bibs—pleated (where vertical pleats run up both sides of the button placket), and pique (which are made from stiff fabric usually woven with a dimpled pattern, and are considered more formal). Only wear bib-front shirts for formal events that call for a tuxedo.

Pro Tip: *Technically there are three types of bibs…that is, if you count the ruffle shirt.

Shirt Plackets

If you’re not a shirt construction hobbyist, you might not know that the placket is the center strip of fabric where a shirt’s buttonholes are situated. And yes, you have placket options.

Front placket tuxedo shirt.

FRONT PLACKET
The most common type of placket style, and one you usually can’t go wrong with. Fabric is folded over and sewn with a fused interlining for a classic (and symmetrical) look.

Tuxedo shirt with no placket (French front).

NO PLACKET (FRENCH FRONT)
French front shirts don’t have that folded-over and sewn strip of fabric along the buttons. Going placket-less gives your shirt a cleaner, more minimalist feel, making it an ideal choice for both formal or casual shirts.

Tuxedo shirt with a covered placket (fly front).

COVERED PLACKET (FLY FRONT)
The fly front is a more formal style of placket in which an extra piece of fabric covers up the buttons on your shirt. Because sometimes you’ve got to leave a little to the imagination.

Tuxedo front dress shirt (plain front).

TUXEDO FRONT (PLAIN FRONT)
This style looks similar to the French front, except the top four buttons are removable for tuxedo studs. Please, let this style live up to its name, and only wear it with tuxes—it should never make an appearance at the office.

Shirt Cuffs

Types of tuxedo shirt cuffs.

BARREL CUFFS
Barrel cuffs don’t require any rolling or cufflinks—instead, they are held closed by buttons. Most of your shirts probably have barrel cuffs. Unlike the typical, casual barrel cuff shirt that buttons shut, our barrel cuff dress shirts have modified buttonholes that can also accommodate cufflinks, bringing them up to tux code.

FRENCH CUFFS
French cuffs are formal shirt cuffs that are rolled back and held in place by cufflinks. If you’re getting married or going to another event that requires a tuxedo, formal French cuffs will elevate your look. Besides, you should always take an opportunity to add a set of cufflinks to your look.

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Tuxedo Neckwear

Tuxedo neckwear styles.

Bow Tie vs. Necktie

We’ve already established that the traditional approach to a tux is to match it with a bow tie, so if you’re attending a really formal or strict black tie event, make it a bow tie. But not every event has that strict of a dress code, and modern style means a lot more wiggle room for personal expression.

So, are you a necktie or a bow tie guy? Half of wearing a bow tie is confidence (and it will look great if you have that confidence), but it takes some know-how to pull off a necktie with a tux. Either way, lifeless perfection isn’t a recipe for success. That’s why we never have, and never will, recommended pre-tied neckwear.

Colors and Fabrics

Choosing a bow tie based on its fabric can add texture to your look in unexpected ways and firmly place your outfit in the right season and formality level.
Silk neckwear for tuxedos.

Silk (Also: Silk satin, knit silk, silk twill)
This is the go-to neckwear fabric for most tuxedo styles or dinner jackets. Silk’s light sheen works well with the (usually) silk satin lapels of your tuxedo or dinner jacket, further elevating your look. If you decide to dress your tux down with a necktie, this silk is the best choice.
Wool neckwear for tuxedos.

Wool, Velvet (Also: Wool flannel, tartan)
In the fall and winter, we bundle up. That’s not to say a velvet or wool tie is going to actually keep you warmer than some other fabric, but visually, these rich materials lend themselves to cooler weather. If you want to try this cozier neckwear material with your tux, stick with a bow tie.

Pro-tip: If you go the bow tie route, don’t sweat the shape too much.

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Cummerbund or Vest (or Neither?)

One of the traditional guiding principles of a formal dress code is that all the working parts of your ensemble must be covered or dressed. While the rule has become more of a guideline, we still find the rule’s offspring in formalwear: vests and cummerbunds.

Cummerbund or vest?

BARE
If you want a more modern, effortless look, consider ditching the vest or cummerbund altogether. Going vestless is an increasingly popular, contemporary choice, and acceptable with either a tuxedo or a suit.

CUMMERBUND
The cummerbund was invented to cover up your waistband (and the awkward shirt bunching that tends to happen in that area). Cummerbunds are rapidly approaching “old-fashioned” status, and we won’t go out of our way to recommend you wear one. But if you must wear one, do it only with a tuxedo, and match the material of your cummerbund with the material of your lapels (sorry, hot pink cummerbunds).

LOW-CUT VEST
Like a cummerbund, you’ll usually only wear a low-cut vest—occasionally called a waistcoat—at black tie events. Low-cut vests are viewed as more formal and are cut lower in the front than a typical suit vest—hence the name—to show off your tuxedo shirt. Unlike the full-back vest, it is appropriate to button all buttons.

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Tuxedo Pants

Story Behind the Stripe

Tuxedo pants.

In the same way satin differentiates a tuxedo jacket from a suit jacket, the tuxedo pant rises above mere suit pants with two vertical satin stripes—one on either side of the leg—and a matching satin waistband. The stripes, a detail often seen on military uniforms, and the waistband cover the pant seams for an uninterrupted look that appears to elongate your legs, making you look taller. And obviously, A.B.T. (always be taller).

Black vs. Color

The minimalist design of the tuxedo pant makes it undeniably versatile. You can match them with just about any tuxedo or dinner jacket—tartan, gingham, pin dot, velvet, wool, black, white—and you wouldn’t have a losing look in the bunch. Nobody should ever compare formalwear to french fries, but the way they work with anything, they’re like french fries. Except instead of making you unhealthy, they make you look better.

Pro-tip: If you’re going for a modern look, show a little ankle. Your tux pants should be hemmed for “no break”—that’s tailor-speak for just above the shoe.

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Tuxedo Shoes

Tuxedo shoes.

When it comes to pairing shoes with your tux, less is usually more. The tuxedo is designed to draw the eye up to your face, but nobody’s going to make eye contact if you’re sporting some over-the-top high-tops. But even if you’re keeping it simple, you’ve got some decisions to make.

Patent leather tuxedo shoes.

PATENT LEATHER
When it comes to wearing a tux, patent leather is an easy, go-to choice. The patent shine works in harmony with the shine of a tuxedo’s lapels and pant stripes, making it an ideal match. Simple equals elegant.
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Cap toe leather tuxedo shoes.

CAP TOE SHOES
Wingtip shoes are a little too ornate, but a sleek cap toe shoe demands just enough attention. The matte leather combined with a patent leather accent on this pair adds subtle variety to your look while keeping the focus of your tux above the waist.
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Loafers for tuxedo shoes.

LOAFERS
There’s more than one way to add texture to a tux, but none of them have been proven to improve your dance moves like a loafer. Okay, so wandering eyes are more likely to pause on a pair of velvet slip-ons or grosgrain loafers, but hey—maybe the groom should have worn better shoes? (Attn: Grooms. Loaf it or someone else will.) In warmer months, skip the socks and let those ankles breathe.
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Tuxedo Accessories

Wearing a tuxedo should be fun, which is probably why cufflinks, pocket squares, and suspenders were invented. While the rest of your tux communicates effortless sophistication, your accessories tell the world you still know how to breakdance or throw a bullseye blindfolded. It’s you in microcosm.

Cufflinks and Studs

Tuxedo cufflinks.

Cufflinks allow your personality to shine through in a formal outfit. It’s okay to have some fun with your cufflinks, but if you’re trying to show your serious side, stick to a metallic style. Or keep your look minimal with silk knots, like the ones in this shirt.

Tuxedo button studs.

Button studs lend your outfit a more formal feel. They’re only for tuxedo shirts, and are designed to fit into the buttonholes of the shirt placket. If you’re also wearing a metallic cufflink, it’s best to match metals with your button studs—gold with gold, silver with silver.

Pocket Squares

Tuxedo pocket squares.

Nothing says “old-school sophistication” like a pocket square. It ties together your look, adds personality and style, and demonstrates that you’re really, really good at folding things. A man wearing a pocket square is a man of confidence. Be that man.
There are a few pieces of advice we would offer when choosing a pocket square. Paired with black tuxedo styles or a white dinner jacket, you can get a lot of mileage out of a white and/or black pocket square. Plain white looks good with everything. A little color in your breast pocket can be a good move, especially for a festive dress code. But for a formal event, color is easy to overdo. Instead, try to mix it up with a timeless pattern, a simple design, or even just a shoestring detail.

Also, stick to silk, linen, cotton, or wool (so…just about anything but polyester).

Belts or Suspenders (or None)

Belts and suspenders for tuxedos.

A belt should never be worn with a tuxedo. If your tuxedo pants have belt loops on them, then they are not tuxedo pants. If you’re looking for some assistance in holding up your tuxedo pants on the dance floor, then your only option is to wear suspenders—and preferably the traditional button style (also known as braces) over clip-ons.


Popular Tuxedo Styles (and when to wear them)

Tuxedo Lapel Choice

Peak lapel styles.
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PEAK LAPEL TUXEDO
Accessorize With: A wing tip or pleated shirt with french cuffs, black bow tie, and patent leather shoes, silk knot cufflinks and button studs.

Wear It For: The most formal events or dress codes, like a black tie wedding.

Shawl collar styles.
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SHAWL COLLAR TUXEDO
Accessorize With: Shirts with fold down collars and french cuffs, black/patterned bow tie, patent or cap toe shoes, metal cufflinks and button studs.

Wear It For: Formal events and black tie dress codes.

Notch lapel styles.
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NOTCH LAPEL TUXEDO
Accessorize With: Dress shirts with fold down collars, patterned bow tie or black satin necktie, loafers, and unique cufflinks.

Wear It For: Creative black tie or black tie optional events that are less formal.

Tuxedo Color Choice

White dinner jacket tuxedo styles.
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WHITE DINNER JACKET TUXEDO
Accessorize With: Dress or pleated shirts with fold down collars, french cuffs are a plus. Black or patterned bow tie, cap toe shoes or loafers.

Wear It For: Formal events, black tie optional and creative black tie dress codes.

Midnight blue tuxedo styles.
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MIDNIGHT BLUE TUXEDO
Accessorize With: A wing tip or pleated shirt with french cuffs, black bow tie, and patent leather shoes, silk knot cufflinks and button studs.

Wear It For: The most formal events or dress codes, like a black tie wedding, or for creative black tie.

Rose shawl collar tuxedo styles.
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Rose Shawl Collar Tuxedo
Accessorize With: Dress shirts with fold down collars, patterned bow tie or black satin necktie, loafers, and unique cufflinks.

Wear It For: Creative black tie or festive dress code events that are less formal.

Tuxedo Fabrics and Pattern Choice

Black watch tartan tuxedo styles.
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BLACK WATCH TARTAN TUXEDO
Accessorize With: Dress shirts with fold down collars, patterned bow tie or black satin necktie, loafers, and unique cufflinks.

Wear It For: Creative black tie or festive dress code events that are less formal.

Velvet jacket tuxedo styles.
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VELVET JACKET
Accessorize With: Dress shirts with fold down collars, patterned bow tie or black satin necktie, loafers, and unique cufflinks.

Wear It For: Creative black tie or festive dress code events that are less formal.

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Bonus: Renting vs. Buying

Renting vs buying a tuxedo.

Owning a tuxedo sounds like a crowning achievement, like riding a prize stallion with no saddle or filling a personal library exclusively with leather-bound first editions. But renting a tuxedo has its benefits, too—provided the tuxedo fits.

Purchasing a tux means you can tailor it to fit your body perfectly, but if your body changes, you may push your tuxedo beyond its sizing. Then there are the tailoring costs. While simple alterations like a pant hem or a sleeve adjustment are relatively minor investments, having the waist of your tuxedo jacket or pants taken in or let out can be costly.

A fully-canvassed, merino wool tuxedo is likely to run upward of $1,200. Add in the cost of alterations, and you might have rented a lot of tuxedos for less. And if you don’t wear a tux more than once a year, your purchased tux may not get enough use to justify the expense—to say nothing of changing style trends and your own evolving taste.

When you rent a tuxedo, you have options. Purchasing a tux means one lapel shape, one color, one button closure style for a lot of different events. This isn’t to say you should never buy a tuxedo, but too often, renting gets a bad reputation because of cheap, poorly made rental suits. If the tux actually fits, renting can look pretty good.

But, as most of us know, renting can also be a hassle. That’s why we made it simple. Just answer a few questions to dial in your sizes, order online, and we’ll deliver your tuxedo to your door—no tux shop required.

Ready to rent? Get started here.